For conferences that
involve education sessions, one of the most time-consuming
and detail-oriented processes is managing all of the submissions
for possible presentations. After the call for papers goes out,
planners can become inundated with proposals for all manner of
presentations, lectures and educational sessions. The review
process is daunting: Planners first must ensure the proposals meet
the minimum requirements for submission, and then narrow down the
candidates to the select few that will make the conference a
Luckily there are many services and
solutions to help you solicit, process, approve, and accept
proposals for your sessions and presentations.
Some association management and meeting
registration systems have integrated solutions that function well
and can meet the needs of most organizations. But if you really
need to manage a robust program, you might require one of the
Technologies Inc.; www.abstractsonline.com) is a full-featured management
system that handles everything from the call for papers to
publishing the proceedings. The program also has components for
tracking continuing education credits. A database-driven product,
Oasis affords considerable flexibility in output options.
Ex-change; www.confex.com) provides abstract management tools as
well as two additional services. Virtual Expo allows attendees to
preview exhibitors and tag those they want to visit, and then build
everything into one schedule or agenda; Podium lets you assemble
and record presentations to make them available online or on DVD
for future reference and/or revenue generation.
(Scholar One Inc.; www.scholarone.com) has three components: Abstract
Central for managing submissions, review and publishing; Manuscript
Central for managing and publishing journals, books and other
publications; and Proceeding Central, which encompasses
submissions, presentation materials, payments and grant
eShow 2000 (Netronix
Corp.; www.eshow2000.com) offers a full start-to-finish
management system that includes abstract management, registration,
exhibit management and the provision of a conference website.
What to Shop For
Because these systems offer many of the
same basic features and functionality, it is important that you
determine the ancillary features you require -- as well as your
budget -- to select the product that is best for you.
Do you want to provide on-site kiosks
and detailed agenda printing? Do you want to publish the materials
as a journal to be sold afterward, either online or in print? Do
you want to combine the abstracts and presentation materials with
streaming video and audio on a DVD? Does your meeting include an
exhibit hall where you would want a consolidated solution so
attendees can search abstracts and exhibitor services online to
create an agenda?
In some instances, you might want to
use the final program materials to create online courses or
presentations. Attendees could access those as a refresher before
taking related tests and qualifying for continuing education
credits. Or, you could make the materials available to nonattendees
on a pay-per-view basis.
When evaluating these systems, look at
the big picture: What do you need for the show, and how do you want
to use the selected presentations afterwards? The unique materials
associated with your programs may be what sets you apart from other
sources of information. Think about the long-term value the
collected content can bring to your organization.
Bob Walters,based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is founder of Phoenix Solutions
and developer of MeetingTrak Software.